The Boys' Life of Abraham Lincoln HTML version

The New President
Lincoln's great skill and wisdom in his debate with Douglas turned the eyes of the whole
country upon him; and the force and logic of his Cooper Institute speech convinced every
one that in him they had discovered a new national leader. He began to be mentioned as a
possible candidate for President in the election which was to take place that fall to choose
a successor to President Buchanan. Indeed, quite a year earlier, an editor in Illinois had
written to him asking permission to announce him as a candidate in his newspaper. At
that time Lincoln had refused, thanking him for the compliment, but adding modestly: "I
must in candor say that I do not think myself fit for the Presidency." About Christmas
time, 1859, however, a number of his stanchest Illinois friends urged him to let them use
his name, and he consented, not so much in the hope of being chosen, as of perhaps
receiving the nomination for Vice-President, or at least of making a show of strength that
would aid him at some future time to become senator. The man most talked about as the
probable Republican candidate for President was William H. Seward, who was United
States senator from New York, and had also been governor of that State.
The political unrest continued. Slavery was still the most absorbing topic, and it was upon
their stand for or against slavery that all the Presidential candidates were chosen. The
pretensions and demands of the Southern leaders had by this time passed into threats.
They declared roundly that they would take their States out of the Union if slavery were
not quickly made lawful all over the country, or in case a "Black Republican" President
should be elected. The Democrats, unable to agree among themselves, split into two
sections, the Northerners nominating Stephen A. Douglas for President, while delegates
who had come to their National Convention from what were called the Cotton States
chose John C. Breckinridge. A few men who had belonged to the old Whig party, but felt
themselves unable to join the Republicans or either faction of the Democrats, met
elsewhere and nominated John Bell.
This breaking up of their political enemies into three distinct camps greatly cheered the
Republicans, and when their National Convention came together in Chicago on May 16,
1860, its members were filled with the most eager enthusiasm. Its meetings were held in
a huge temporary wooden building called the Wigwam, so large that 10,000 people could
easily assemble in it to watch the proceedings. Few conventions have shown such depth
of feeling. Not only the delegates on the central platform, but even the spectators seemed
impressed with the fact that they were taking part in a great historical event. The first two
days were taken up in seating delegates, adopting a "platform" or statement of party
principles, and in other necessary routine matters. On the third day, however, it was
certain that balloting would begin, and crowds hurried to the Wigwam in a fever of
curiosity. The New York men, sure that Seward would be the choice of the convention,
marched there in a body, with music and banners. The friends of Lincoln arrived before
them, and while not making so much noise or show, were doing good work for their
favorite. The long nominating speeches of later years had not then come into fashion. "I
take the liberty," simply said Mr. Evarts of New York, "to name as a candidate to be
nominated by this convention for the office of President of the United States, William H.